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Image: Nadia Bloom
Red Huber  /  Orlando Sentinel via AP
Nadia Bloom, 11, is carried by rescuers after being found in the woods surrounding her Winter Springs, Fla., home two weeks ago. She said that spongy plants containing water helped her survive her four-day ordeal.
TODAY contributor
updated 4/26/2010 9:17:53 AM ET 2010-04-26T13:17:53

It took an 11-year-old Florida girl only an hour to realize she was lost in an alligator-infested wilderness area near her home. When she heard a lone rescuer calling her name four days later, Nadia Bloom was barefoot, tired, hungry and covered from head to toe with bug bites.

“I was excited. I’ve never been so excited in my life,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Monday of the moment she was rescued two weeks ago. “I was finally going to get found, and I was finally going to get out of those woods.”

Nadia spoke publicly about her ordeal for the first time via satellite from Orlando, Fla., with her parents, Jeff and Tanya Bloom. She showed no outward signs of what she’d gone through, although she told Lauer, “I’m still itchy.” As if for emphasis she scratched at her neck, and added that she is still using Aquaphor, an anti-itch ointment, “which I hate.”

‘I missed my family’
Nadia got lost on April 9 when she entered a wilderness area not far from her home. Although a search was launched soon after she disappeared, it would be four days before James King, a volunteer searcher, found her in the dense swamp.

Lauer asked Nadia how long it took after she ventured into the swamp to realize she was lost.

“About an hour,” she said.

“Were you scared?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“I tried to think that somebody would rescue me,” Nadia continued. But eventually it got dark, and she knew she would have to find a place to spend the night.

“I had to sleep in this bush, which was itchy,” she said. “I missed my family.”

Nadia Bloom was covered with bug bites when James King found her, but otherwise in remarkably good condition.

Nadia has a mild form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome, but she was expressive and responsive. She’s also had some practice telling her story. After spending a week in the hospital recovering from her insect bites and a bacterial infection in her blood, she spoke Sunday to the congregation at her church.

“You wouldn’t believe what I saw. I got to see this snake — it was a water moccasin, but I kept my distance from it,” she told the congregation. Standing with Nadia were her parents and a younger sister. She also has an infant sister who was just over a week old when Nadia got lost.

The longest walk
Nadia had brought no food or water with her. She knew not to eat berries that were poisonous, but did eat some plants growing in the water.

“There were these plants on the first and second day,” the dark-haired girl told Lauer. “They were spongy, kind of. They had water in them and you could eat them. They were kind of like food. They were water plants.”

“You know what?” she told her congregation Sunday with comic emphasis. “The whole reason I even went into these woods was because I really wanted to see nature, and I really did get to see nature.”

The area in which Nadia Bloom got lost is infested with alligators. She said she also saw a water moccasin, but knew to keep her distance from it.
Everyone laughed at Nadia’s joke, but two weeks earlier, it was anything but funny.  Her mother remembered how painful it was the first night of the search when police told her to go home and get some sleep.

“That was the hardest walk home ever,” Tanya said. “They told us to get home and get a little bit of rest. We were back in a couple of hours. It was incredibly difficult.”

Her husband said that thinking his daughter was lost in the dark wilderness area was torture to a parent, “especially when it was hardest when it gets dark and you just don’t know if she’s crying, scared or what condition she’s in. It’s a terrible feeling,” Jeff said.

Darkness, then sunshine
On the morning of Nadia’s fifth day in the swamp, James King, a civilian who was familiar with the Florida wilderness and once a member of the same church as the Blooms, decided to search one particularly dense area of the swamp.

Video: ‘The Lord led me’ to missing girl, rescuer says “I went in and the Lord led me directly to her,” King told Meredith Vieira when he came on TODAY April 14 to describe the rescue. King had been searching about two hours when he found Nadia in undergrowth so dense he had to be practically on top of her before he could see her.

King gave Nadia a nutrition drink and water and called in a helicopter and rescue crew. It took more than an hour to get Nadia out of the swamp, but she was in remarkably good shape. She was only about a mile away from her home.

Jeff Bloom described what he felt when police called to tell him and his wife that Nadia had been found alive and in good shape.

“It was like all the darkness flowed out and the sunshine just came rushing in,” he told Lauer. “That’s how it felt.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Florida girl, 11, recalls survival in swamp

  1. Closed captioning of: Florida girl, 11, recalls survival in swamp

    >>> get into that, just ahead.

    >>> let us begin this half hour with the 11-year-old girl who was lost in an alligator and bug-infested swamp in florida for four days. we'll talk to nadio bloom and her parents in a moment. but first, her story from nbc 's mark potter .

    >> reporter: nearly two weeks after she was rescued, nadia bloom and her family are getting back to normal now. at a church service on sunday, they stood before the congregation.

    >> we are so happy to have you back. hey, nadia , how are you doing?

    >> reporter: 11-year-old nadia disappeared april 9th after wandering into dense woods near her home. for four nights she was lost there. after she was located and carried from the woods on a stretcher, she had stories to tell.

    >> you know what? the whole reason i even went into thighs wood sincere because i really wanted to see nature and, i mean, i really did get to see nature .

    >> reporter: police have described the woods where she was lost as very thick and hard to get through.

    >> you wouldn't believe what i saw. i got to see this snake. it was a water moccassin, but i kept my distance from it, fortunately.

    >> reporter: for her family, nadia being lost in the woods was terrifying.

    >> when you go through something like this, and i pray that nobody else does, you do get a lift in your spirit when you have a family like this, like you all, that encouraged us and, you know, did all that you did.

    >> reporter: nadia is now back in school and is recovering from her cuts and bug bites.

    >> for nadia 's safe return, we say thanks.

    >> reporter: sunday, the family joined in prayer.

    >> and for that, we do say thanks.

    >> amen.

    >> thanks, guy.

    >> see ya .

    >> reporter: for "today," mark potter , nbc news, miami.

    >> nadia is with us now, along with her parents, tanya and jeff bloom. good morning to you all. nice to see you.

    >> morning.

    >> morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> nadia , from what i understand , when they found you, you had a lot of bug bites, from head to toe . have you recovered from all of those or are you still itching a little bit?

    >> i'm still itchy, but i've recovered from most of them, but it's still itchy and i have to use aquafor, which i hate.

    >> i know, that's not pleasant stuff. you went in there, you wanted to see nature . we heard you say that. how long were you in there, in those woods and in that swamp, nadia , until you realized you couldn't find your way out?

    >> about an hour.

    >> did you immediately get scared?

    >> yeah.

    >> you know, i was trying to think, nadia , of my oldest son, who is 9 years old. you're 11. the part that got me most is how he would have been handling that first night, when it started to get dark in those woods and dark in that swamp. how did you handle that?

    >> well, i tried to think somebody would rescue me, but i had to sleep in this bush.

    >> was that first night one of the hard eest times?

    >> which was itchy. yeah, because i missed my family.

    >> yeah. jeff and tanya , what about you on that first night? i know you weren't allowed to take part in the official search. as parents, it's unbearable when your child is missing.

    >> yeah.

    >> as you see it getting dark on that first day, it had to be just really awful.

    >> yeah. that's especially when it was hardest, when it gets dark and you just don't know, you know, if she's crying, scared or what condition she's in. it's a terrible feeling.

    >> we had to leave at 2:30. when we left at 2:30, that was the hardest walk home ever, when they had the helicopter up and they told us to go home and get a little bit of rest. we were back maybe a couple of hours, two or three, but we were back. it was very difficult to walk away .

    >> nadia , i know you didn't get much sleep in these four days. did you find any food to eat, any water to drink ? it was a swamp but you have to be careful about what you drink ierk imagine.

    >> there were these plants on the first and second day and they were spongy kind of, and they had water in them and you could eat them. they were kind of like food.

    >> so, you ate a few of those and made it through?

    >> they were water plants. uh-huh. they float.

    >> can you describe the moment when you heard mr. king's voice calling your name after four days and four nights?

    >> i was excited. i mean, i've never been so excited in my life. i knew i was finally going to get found and i was finally going to be out of these woods .

    >> yeah. that's very exciting. tanya and jeff , when you heard that news and you heard from the police your daughter had been found alive, i mean, can you describe that moment?

    >> ecstatic.

    >> yeah.

    >> just really praising god that she was found and that she was okay.

    >> it was like all the darkness flowed out and, you know, sunshine came just rushing in. that's how it felt. to describe it i guess. it's hard.

    >> in the end, it turns out nadia was only about a mile away from home when she was eventually found. these woods are right close to your property. any new rules in place when it comes to nadia and her nature exploits?

    >> she knows she's not supposed to go without anyone that's not a grown-up and she's not going to do it again, she's assured us.

    >> most importantly, we're happy that this turned out well. nadia , we're happy you're okay. we appreciate you talking to us this morning. okay?

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you. nice to meet you. tanya and jeff , thank you as well.

    >>> let's get a check of the weather now from al.

    >> we've got a young birthday girl here, 18. what's your name?

    >> kate.

    >> where are you from?

    >> california.

    >> very nice. happy birthday .

    >> thank you.

    >> got a lot of hanson


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